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Tis the Season for Self-Care: How to Manage Holiday Stress

December 12th, 2023

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The holidays can be a time full of cheer and celebration with loved ones – but this joy may come with stress from planning, traveling, financial demands, and relationship dynamics. If you feel that you could benefit from stress management techniques and suggestions for incorporating self-care during “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”, then keep reading.

What is Holiday Stress?

Holiday stress is a common experience where one can feel overwhelmed by the pressures and responsibilities associated with the festivities during the holiday season, typically referring to November and December.

What Causes Holiday Stress?

Things that can contribute to or cause holiday stress include increased commitments and responsibilities, financial strain from gift giving, and high expectations/pressure for the holiday to be memorable.

One study found that 62% of respondents described their stress as being “very or somewhat” elevated during the holidays, while a report from the American Psychiatric Association found that adults are five times more likely to say that their stress level increases, rather than decreases, during the festive season.

In short, while the holiday season is seen as a time of joy, cheer, and excitement, it can also come with related stress and anxiety.

Using Self-Care to Manage Holiday Stress

While the most ideal option would be to simply avoid things that stress us out, the reality is that many stressors in life cannot be eliminated. Because of this, it is important to have tools which can provide protection against stressors as they arise, which is where self-care can help. Self-care can be a great tool for building resilience towards stressors which can’t be avoided, as taking steps to care for yourself better equips you to handle life’s challenges and to succeed in life. Self-care is a priority and is necessary for well-being.

Different Types of Self-Care

There are many ways we can take care of ourselves, but some main areas of care include physical, social, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Here are some specific suggestions for tools and applications related to each of those areas:

1. Physical Self-Care

There is a strong connection between our bodies and our minds; when we care for our bodies, we may find that we think and feel better as well. Physical self-care can include attending to many needs, including:

  • Getting adequate sleep
  • Eating balanced and nutritious meals · Exercising and being physically active (you can try this 15-minute festive guided yoga video on YouTube!)
  • Managing your health with routine medical care

2. Social Self-Care

Close connections and socialization are important to our well-being and are key to self-care. The holidays are often seen as a time spent with loved ones; however, it can be a challenge to make time for many relationships during this busy season. We all have different social needs and desires, so the key is to determine what your own personal social needs are and devoting time for your social life in your schedule, when possible. Social self-care can look like many things, such as:

  • Having face-to-face time with friends
  • Calling a loved one
  • Sharing fond holiday memories with a close group
  • Planning social activities (maybe a gift exchange or holiday-movie-watching-party to celebrate!)
  • Volunteer at an organization to spread kindness and joy this season
  • Sending letters or holiday cards

3. Mental Self-Care

Our well-being is influenced largely by the way we think and what we think about. Mental self-care includes things that mentally stimulate us and keep our minds sharp, healthy, and exercised, including:

4. Emotional Self-Care

Emotional self-care involves acknowledging, as well as expressing, our feelings in a regular and safe way. Expressing emotions and having healthy coping skills to process them can help us to balance and manage strong feelings, such as anxiety and stress. Some ways to practice emotional self-care include:

5. Spiritual Self-Care

While spiritual self-care can certainly include religion or spirituality, it doesn’t have to; spiritual self-care can involve anything that develops or creates a deeper sense of meaning, connection, or understanding. Spiritual self-care can include:

  • Praying
  • Attending religious services or ceremonies
  • Meditating
  • Reflecting on personal experiences and life
  • Creating art (writing, drawing, painting, singing, composing, etc.)


Self-care isn’t one size fits all – it is very personal and customized to our individual needs, wants, and circumstances. Assess what you currently require and desire, consider your stressors, and develop strategies for self-care which can meet these needs and help manage your stress. The holidays can be very hectic, so plan for any challenges you may encounter. Take small steps by identifying one thing that you can control and implement to start caring for yourself. Finally, make self-care a priority by scheduling routine activities that you can use for managing your needs.

While this time of year can come with heightened stress, hopefully incorporating some of these self-care methods can help to manage and lessen holiday stress and leave plenty of room for merry and bright celebrations!

Check out these other blogs by Clarity Clinic to find support for other common struggles during the holiday season:





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